However, critics in opposition as well as within the ruling People’s Party were sceptical about the seriousness of the government in this regard, recalling a similar two-year old proclamation.
“The People’s Party government has decided to hold local bodies elections after 22 years under the previous (LB) system in order to transfer powers at the grassroots level and solidity of democracy and democratic institutions,” said Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin, AJK’s senior minister for local government and rural development (LG&RD).
“The local governments coming into existence as a result of LB polls will address concerns of people regarding civic amenities without any delay besides serving as nurseries for democracy,” he said.
The last LB polls were held in AJK in 1991 during the Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan led Muslim Conference government.
Soon after assuming office in July 1996, the then Barrister Sultan Mahmood led People’s Party government also announced to hold LB polls on party basis on November 16, the same year.
According to official sources, Rs 4.6 million surety was deposited by the candidates throughout AJK. However, the polls were cancelled apparently for correction of voter lists but in effect to avoid any risks in the wake of dissolution of Benazir Bhutto government in Islamabad. That surety has not been refunded to the candidates to this day.
Ever since 1995, the charge of LB institutions is being given by every government to ‘administrators’ who are either government officials or ruling party leaders.
The senior minister claimed that compilation of electoral rolls, appointment of election commissioner for local bodies and allied staff, and demarcation of wards would be completed within the next six months to hold the LB polls in April 2014.
However, main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said it took the minister’s announcement with a pinch of salt because the PPAJK government had so far proved that it did not believe in honouring its commitments.
Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, vice president of ruling PPAJK, also expressed doubt that the government would honour its latest announcement, which was also party’s commitment in the election manifesto.
“Unfortunately, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed led government’s performance has been abysmally poor and this announcement seems to be a stunt to divert attention from that and also to give a lollipop to disheartened party workers,” said the rebel leader.
He said the sincerity of the government would become clear after provision of funds to the Election Commission for compilation of computerised electoral rolls.“Otherwise, it would be yet another hoax.”
It may be recalled that in October 2011, Mr Yasin had told a press conference in Mirpur that the LB polls would be held after six months.